Preaching the Gospel in Taiwan

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Mountain of Monkeys

Dear Mom, Dad, Eric, and the newly inaugurated Princess Belle,

I will begin by answering all of the questions because there were so many. I'll try to make my answers clear.

1. How do I pick up packages? All packages begin their lifeline in the Woolsey home. Following the packing and preparation, they are taken, usually by car the nearest post office (likely the one by Juan Diego Catholic School) at which point they are dropped off for international delivery. They then are taken the airport where a preselected carrier vessel flies such aforementioned packages to Taibei, Taiwan (with an off chance of Gaoxiong) where they are then shipped by deliver truck to the Mission home on Wu Quan Lu in Taizhong. The office Elders then re-label the package and re ship the package to my place of living. When I come home at the end of the day around 9:00p.m., I retrieve it from the security guard (sometimes costing me 80 kuai in redirection fees). I don't need a car to ship it, it comes directly to where I live.
2. What floor do I live on? 15 yes fifteen
3. Is it a high-rise? I actually don't know what counts as a high rise, but it has only 19 floors.
4. Do I eat well? Probably not as well as I should. Today I poured dry oatmeal flakes into a bowl with a banana and sugar-free soy milk. I probably wouldn't have eaten such things in America, but after seven months of taste bud destructive food, I thought that it tasted great. It's also really healthy which is also a plus. I buy a lot of fruit and eat a ton of rice with vegetables during the week. I've been told that I've lost weight even from two months ago. It sounds like I'm going to be pretty skinny when I get home. I hope so.
5. Where do we eat? Anywhere on the side of the road that's convenient. Most times it's just a place with rice and vegetables and maybe some meat. It's not very exciting to you probably. I'm pretty used to it though.
6. Will the call be 20 minutes again? No, it will be 40.
7. The awesome American is in Taiwan for what reason? He's an English teacher here. He has a PhD in linguistics and is incredibly brilliant. He loves the Lord and in his own ways serves everyone around him. He is a true disciple of Jesus Christ and never ceases to impress me.
8. My impressions of the 70-member? An incredibly spiritual man who has devoted his life to serving the Lord. I was surprised by how casual he was with me and how easily we formed a bond. He's a very impressive man (with regards to his educational feats as well as his ability to come to my level). He graduated from Harvard which reignited my desire for higher education and to love all man.
9. How many got to meet with him? There were three or four different tour sites and about 4-6 people got to interview at each one. So, maybe 20-25 people in the mission out of 160+ missionary's, I would guess. I know they tried to select new missionaries, old missionaries, trainers, leaders, sisters, natives, foreigners, and everything in between to get a snapshot of the mission. It was predetermined somehow and I have no clue how. I'm grateful that I got a few short moments with him, even if I was too dumbfounded to know what to say necessarily.

Notre Dame is in the National Championship? That's awesome. I hope they win. I don't know why or how they got there, but that is so exciting.

So this week wasn't very exciting. Thanksgiving came and went without much thought on our part. We just worked that day like normal. This week I get to interview with President Bishop which is always a treat. It's truly sad to think that he only has six months, or so left himself. He has been too good to me. Today, however, we hiked Monkey Mountain (houzi shan) and saw a ton of monkeys. They're so fascinating. They just walk along the path, inches from you, without even batting an eye. They're used to people walking near them and do not fear them at all. Sometimes they even climb on you, which is probably a health concern if I had to guess. If you look the males in the eyes they bare their teeth and get prepared to fight. When I take you all here someday, we'll hike the trail again. It can be a pretty good work out if you work at it for a while and the monkeys are the real treat. I'll send a couple of pictures here in a moment. Mom may have been scared. They start fighting sometimes and when there's about thirty or more monkeys all around you and they start fighting, it honestly scared me a little. Dad would have been fascinated and Eric would have loved it. I want to go to the Gaoxiong 85 in a few weeks. There is so much to see, but that isn't why I'm here so I try not to think about it too much.

I hope that Thanksgiving was a lot of fun and brought a lot of gratitude to our Heavenly Father.

The movie Lincoln sounds great.

Fifty degrees sounds pretty cold. It was relatively hot today when we hiked the mountain. I may have gotten sun-burned a bit.

I kind of feel lame in that I don't have a ton to say this week. I'm grateful for all of you and all you do for me. Don't be counting down my time too fast. This mission experience is whizzing past me at the speed of light and no matter how much I fight against it to slow down, it just refuses. I'm trying to constantly push myself and overcome myself so that when that day comes my change will be real and permanent. I'm not going to be the same as I was before. I have big plans to be industrious and diligent. I want to fulfill the Lord's purpose for me.

I love and miss you all. What can I do for you all? How can I help you this holiday season?

- Elder Woolsey

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dear Mom, Dad, Eric, and Belle,

I was a little awestruck when you mentioned that I had been out for ten months.  I had no idea that i had hit that mark.  I can't believe that I have been out in the field for so long.  It's truly astounding to me.  It feels like a long time, but a short time as well.  Soon, when I reflect back to where I was a year ago, it will have been in Taiwan.  I don't know how to describe that feeling.  If I'm being honest, I expect Christmas to be a little difficult.  I haven't even thought of Thanksgiving and I imagine Thursday to be just fine.  The call home on Mother's Day was difficult.  When we do our best every day and constantly work, it's easy not to think of home, but when we step back and do something like call home, it hits us.  I'm looking forward to speaking to all of you, but I'm not extremely excited for the effects.  We also will have a missionary activity which should be noteworthy.

So this week has been really exciting in that we had Elder Wilson of the Quorum of the 70 visit the mission for a tour.  At the end, a few missionaries were selected to interview with Elder Wilson.  Having not been selected, we began to return to our area promptly, when my Zone Leader, Elder Allen stopped me and told me that I would actually be interviewing with him.  I was more than surprised.  It's a little nerve-wracking to interview with an Authority that high in the church.  I suppose I know how Dad felt a little bit.  He began by asking how I've been doing, if I get along with my companion (like asking about mom), asked about my whole family (similar to dad's question), specifically our history in the church.  As it turns out, when he was really, really, young his Dad used to smoke a lot and he remembers big clouds of smoke in the kitchen, but when he was a young child his parents became active, but he still has those memories that stick with him.  He also had a similar experience as I have had with the Book of Mormon in that we had a powerful conviction that it was true after reading through it and praying sincerely (that was his and my most powerful testimony in the gospel).  He then proceeded to tell me that I can't understand at this point in my life the lasting affects of a mission.  He says that the people of Brazil (where he served) still call him Angel Wilson because of his bringing the gospel to them.  He also had the privilege of baptizing the father of a family where he helped the mother and son get baptized forty years previously.  He said that it was a strange feeling to stand in the same font, still with the title Elder, in the same country, in the same language, with the same family, in the same white clothes, as forty years previously.  He told me that I cannot understand at this point in my life.  He asked if I had ANY QUESTIONS.  My mind was racing and the only thing I managed to ask for was an extension and he said that it wasn't really his realm of influence, but he said that I probably could and commended the desire to serve for two full years.  It was quite the experience, but altogether too brief.  I wish I had hours with him, but I felt like I didn't want to waste his time with menial and trivial matters.  What would you all have done??  I want answers to that question (not rhetorical).

A nice man in our ward (the American) bought me and my companion a pumpkin pie, American Ice cream (yes, mom, there is a massive difference), stuffing, and a frozen lasagna from Costco.  I think I'm going to give most of it to my companion because i don't want to put on weight, but can you imagine how nice that man is!  Elder Forbes and I wrote him a card while we were together and we promptly delivered it to him yesterday.  What a wonderful man.

It sounds like home is doing well for the most part.  Biking is going well.  Movies. The weather.  Family in Arizona (for the most part at least).  I hope that grandma Wilkes and Grandpa Woolsey are hanging in there.  That's really interesting what you said about the letter home.  I didn't know I did that.  Very interesting.  Also, do you still have that "Dan Jones" video from when I first came to Taiwan?  The one with me testifying and stuff?  I hope so!  I'll now answer your questions:

1.  Training is definitely a unique experience where tons of responsibility is placed upon you that I hadn't previously realized.  I can decide whether we are going to be obedient, whether we work hard, what we eat, whether we keep the rules, etc.  I have so much influence that it's staggering, but I've been working really hard and been more obedient than ever before on my mission.  I'm always in bed at 10:30, always study on time, always working, keeping industrious, never slighting or skirting rules.  I promise that I'm not abusing this responsibility in any way shape or form, Mom and Dad.
2.  My pants seem to be fine for the most part.  I need to dry clean my suits.  I have two pairs of pants that are huge.  I need to buy smaller ones or get them altered, because they are honestly ridiculously big.  I have lost a lot of weight, yes, but they are huge regardless.  The two coupled together results in embarrassingly large pants.
3.  Honestly, much to my surprise, it's cooling down.  Most days are pretty warm still, but early mornings and nights are very cool and honestly very refreshing.  It rained yesterday and I got a little cold.  My new companion laughed at me because he thought it was hot still compared to when he left Utah.  I think it's pretty cold personally, but I'm a wuss with weather now.  I'm just so used to constantly sweating and sticking to things.  It will be interesting to see the difference when I actually go home during the winter.

Well my time is almost up.  I love you all so much.  Tell me all about Thanksgiving and how everyone is doing.  Keep being great examples for me of diligence, obedience, and love.

-Elder Woolsey

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Can Ye Sing the Song of Redeeming Love?"

Dear Mom (Birthday Queen), Dad, Eric, and Belle,

I am blown away.  Honestly, blown away, by all of you.  I'm astonished and impressed by your constant diligence and love for the Lord.  Home sounds happy, peaceful, progressive, and full of nurturing by "the good word of God."  A tender mercy that I have realized since coming to Taiwan is the influence that one decision that I didn't understand a year and a half ago, to enter my mission papers, would make on those around me.  As I read the email this week, my body brimmed with excitement, gratitude, and love for a family that has worked so hard and so diligently to love the Lord.  That picture that you sent me of you and mom touched my heart.  I feel like your bond has been strengthened and nurtured since my having left home.  There is the fact that I have improved as well, but that influence stretches far beyond our family's boundary.  I received a letter from Kameron (please remove full names in the blog posts please) this last week.  Does that name sound familiar?  Well...I can say that I was more than a little confused as upon closer inspection discovered the titled affixed at the front of his name: ELDER.  My heart skipped a beat as when I left he had told me that he questioned whether the church was true and had never read the Book of Mormon.  I opened the card to find that he had found my mission experience to be an example to him and that he had, over the course of the last year, developed a testimony of the Savior.  He is now serving in New Jersey (I think), English speaking.  What a joy that was to see.  I had a similar experience prior to leaving, in which another one of my close friends said that since my call, he felt like he needed to follow my example and serve whereas before he questioned his ability.  He is now serving on the east coast Spanish speaking.  Elder Apsley has also written me about that example saying that he just wants to change and follow his Savior and that he's grateful for my change.  These things fill my soul with joy.  My last companion was having similar experiences.  He questioned for a long time whether he wanted to serve and when he decided to go, a friend of his said that his example changed him and helped him decide to serve.  Think of the lives that are being touched and the service that is being rendered all over the world!  We didn't think much of what we were doing at the time.  I didn't understand what a mission was, but now I realize that it's small and simple things that add up to great things.  I will never for a day in my life regret serving. 

It sounds like Mom's birthday went off without a hitch.  I miss home when I hear of such festivities and fun times.  I can't imagine doing those things very well right now, but I bet it's exciting.  A great missionary, Elder Olsen went home this last week.  He was in my District last move call.  What an incredible Elder!  He lives somewhere in Utah.  I don't know his information really, but it would be cool if you could find some of these people who served around me and hear of their incredible experiences.  I'll tell you right now that that Elder loves people.  There may be a Taiwan Taichung Facebook page or something that could lead you to these people that I've served around.  It's just a thought that just barely came to me.  I bet mom adored those slippers, the food, Cinderella, and the other movie.  It sounds like a wonderful time and the renovations of the house are going to make the place unrecognizable, but that's OK.  It will be fun to see the change.  Those changes seem like old hat to you all, but incredibly strange still to me.  But, either way, time is moving incredibly fast, and will never slow down no matter how often I tell it to.  I'll be home soon.

I wish I could have heard you speak, Dad.  The best talk I ever heard you share was in Stake Conference shortly after we moved to Utah.  You shared about Grandma's passing and how it changed your life.  I remember crying and I remember the way it made me feel.  I bet yesterday's talk was just as moving and inspirational.  Thanks for being worthy, willing, and able to represent the Lord.

Win LOTOJA, eh?  I have a really cool poem I want to share with you, but I don't have it on me right now.  I think it will explain what it will take for you to win.  It's really descriptive, you would like it.  I think you can do it, Dad.  I have confidence in you.  Just put it all on the line and enlist the Lord's help and you can't go amiss.

I love that scripture you sent.  I had a different insight about a week ago on it that I'm not sure I shared with you or not about before I served a mission, but I think it fits perfectly with the current political situation.  One thing that I have learned on my mission:  THE LORD GRANTS UNTO US WHAT WE DESIRE (ALMA 29!!!!).  This is truth.  If we desire change and spiritual enlightenment, we will get it.  If we aspire to the hearts of men, we will get it.  If we want to follow the philosophies of men and seek after carnal indulgences and wickedness WE WILL GET IT.  It all comes down to what we desire.  The Lord adores His children and being such, He gives us what we want.  This doesn't eliminate trials, but regardless the end result is always what we want.  I want to want a lot of things so that I can desire them and develop certain attributes.  There's power in our desires.

A call to China?!  I'm a little confused, but very interested.  What does that mean exactly?  Where is he finishing his mission?  What an experience it must be to be one of the first in that blessed land!  David O. McKay consecrated China and East Asia (including Taiwan) for missionary work.  It's a golden and blessed land.  The church is skyrocketing here.  The members are so strong, it's truly astounding.  I can't wait to hear about the growth here in 20-30-50 years.  I can't wait till a Gaoxiong temple is built.  The church already has the land, they're just waiting on the worthy members in the area to utilize the Taibei temple first.  I wish there could be three (well, fifty would be even better, but...) one in Taibei, one in Taizhong, and one in Gaoxiong (all three of the major cities).  How wonderful would that be?

Well.  I apologize for not having more to say this week.  It's been a great week and we've been doing our best to help people progress toward baptism.  We have some great goals right now and I honestly believe they can hit them.

I love you all.  Keep it up.

- Elder Woolsey

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Is that Lady Gaga or Mom?!

Dear Mom, Dad, and Eric,

We have four baptismal goals right now for this month who are progressing swimmingly. I'm going to keep working as hard as I can to be the best missionary that I can be.

I've had the highest companion to move-call ratio of anyone in the mission which is typically indicative of a missionary that is difficult to work with.  It's nearly 1:1.  It's actually 5 companions : 6 move-calls.  That's kind of crazy.  Some others in my generation have only had three companions. 

I can't even describe how happy I am that you went to the maze and ate Thai food.  That makes me overjoyed.  Spring rolls eh?  I've eaten them and while they are delicious (and are probably better than the ones here)....they aren't REAL spring rolls.  When you come to Taiwan, I'll take you to eat REAL spring rolls.  The ones you eat are probably still better though...  Halloween is a really fun holiday.  This week for English class we had a Halloween Party where we bobbed for apples, had face paint, fishing game, cake walk, donut on a string, pin the tail on the cat, and watched the infamous Family Home Evening video "THE PUMP."  It was a fun night where we could share a little about culture and English.  I ate a little candy all in all so I suppose it counts as Halloween for me. 

Birthday month ...uhh...I mean week has begun huh?  Sounds like fun. I wish I could be there to help you have the best week ever.  I'll write my birthday wishes next Monday and hope that I can send a card today some time.  Birthdays are so much fun, especially when they are someone Else's. 

Hey, random insert here, but I heard the missionary calls have jumped from 700 a week to like 4000 a week.  Is that true?!  What are they going to do!?  Can you imagine!?  A world flooded with missionaries!  That's the way it should be!  They will baptize at least a million people a year.  That's incredible!  The church is about to be HUGE.

I'll answer these questions really quickly:

1. Do we tract or get referrals? In Shalu we tracted a ton and got a ton of referrals.  In Yuanlin we did neither very much, mostly contacting. Here is mostly contacting and referrals.  I tracted yesterday for the first time in over a month.  Working through the ward is most efficient.  Working through the ward is a sacred art that few master.  My trainer was really good at it. 

2. I'm eating.  I'm actually at about 162 pounds right now which is about 23 pounds lighter than when I left home.

3. Missionaries love the bakeries and eat there often. I personally do not because they're fatty.  They're good, but I usually only eat at them on exchanges now.

4.  Elder Cutler is awesome.

5.  The people think missionaries are inconvenient and a hassle when we approach them on the roads, but they don't mind them when they're sitting in their homes.  In fact they love them at that point.  They don't understand is the biggest problem so until they actually meet one, all they know is that they weave in and out of traffic in a dangerous fashion and talk with everyone.

Well, I am doing well.  Really well.  I love the work.  I couldn't be happier.  I miss you all more than you know and I can't wait to talk to you in a couple months.  Have a wonderful birthday, Mom.  Keep inspiring me. 

I think you should start trying to do Family History Work.  I don't know how to do it, but I'm going to work on it when I get home.  We need to help those who have passed on.  They need our help. 

- Elder Woolsey